Tenoroc Public Use Area
Enjoy outstanding fishing or wildlife viewing at Tenoroc, or explore the varied terrain while hiking, bicycling or horseback riding. For information on events, fishing, the shooting sport center and all other activities at Tenoroc PUA, please call the Welcome Center at 863-606-0093.
Things to Do
Birdlife is abundant year-round, but seasonal specialties include songbirds during spring and fall migrations, nesting osprey, wading birds in the spring, and wintering waterfowl November to March. Butterfly populations reach their peak in late summer and fall. Hiking and horseback riding are most pleasant fall through spring.
- Tenoroc is located in Polk County, two miles northeast of Lakeland. Get directions to Tenoroc Public Use Area
- For information on events, fishing, the shooting sport center and all other activities at Tenoroc PUA, please call the Welcome Center at 863-606-0093.
- Fishing platforms are available; bank fishing and boating access is provided on many lakes.
- Special opportunities are available to children and physically challenged anglers; facilities at Derby Lake and the Pasture Lakes are fully ADA accessible.
- All dogs must be leashed, except as authorized by FWC.
- Restrooms are available at Derby Lake and Picnic Lake.
- All visitors to the Fish Management Area must register and pay a $3 daily-use fee unless exempt. Note that visitors to the Tenoroc Public Shooting Range must also register and pay a separate fee. For more information, visit the Tenoroc Public Shooting Range web page.
- Sports shooting facilities at Tenoroc include several ranges; trap/skeet and sporting clay stations and 3-D archery ranges. Note that the Sports shooting facilities hours of operation are different than the Fish Management Area.
- Public access: Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during periods of Daylight Saving Time and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. during periods of Eastern Standard Time.
- Motor vehicles may be operated only on named roads, designated parking areas and fishing ramps as described in the regulations brochure.
- During scheduled hunt days, all visitors are encouraged to wear a daylight fluorescent orange shirt, vest, jacket and/or hat.
Tenoroc lies along a major historical songbird migration route that once followed hardwood forests lining the Peace River. In addition to resident wildlife, Tenoroc provides resources critical to many migratory birds including waterfowl, passerines, raptors and others. Habitats important to migratory species are protected, maintained or enhanced. The Ridge Audubon Society conducts annual bird counts on the area.
Watch for meadowlarks and raptors on a drive to Picnic Lake, a good spot for wading birds. Hike the trail around Cemetery Lake and look for common gallinule, wood duck, and mallard, as well as blue-winged teal, hooded merganser and other migratory ducks. Northern harriers are common in the winter. Across the road from Picnic Lake’s parking area, pick up the dike trail and hike to an area overlooking a wading bird colony of snowy egret, white ibis and anhinga, active in the springtime. Year-round residents include osprey, red-shouldered hawk, black and turkey vultures. Swallow-tailed kites are summer visitors, and winter is the time to see white pelicans, belted kingfishers, American kestrels, northern harriers and peregrine falcons. In addition to birds, keep an eye out for colorful butterflies such as red admiral, spicebush swallowtail, giant swallowtail and question mark.
Check out other species recorded from Tenoroc PUA, or add observations of your own, by visiting Tenoroc PUA Nature Trackers Project.
Add your bird observations to the following Tenoroc PUA eBird Hotspots:
Wildlife Spotlight: Largemouth Bass
The largemouth bass is our state’s most popular freshwater game fish and the largest member of the sunfish family. Sometimes confused with smallmouth and spotted bass, the Florida largemouth is easily distinguished by its upper jaw that extends beyond the rear edge of the eye. This bass also has a deep notch in the back fins. Females live longer and grow larger than males; males seldom exceed 16 inches, while females often surpass 22 inches. Virtually all bass over eight pounds are female.
Florida largemouth bass are found in freshwater to brackish habitats, including ponds, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries, and are abundant in waters where bountiful vegetation provides food and cover. Spawning time varies from south to north, but usually begins in most central Florida lakes in February and March, when water temperatures reach 58 to 65 degrees. The female lays up to 100,000 eggs in a saucer-shaped nest 20 to 30 inches in diameter. The male fans out a nest in hard-bottom areas along shallow shorelines, then guards the nest, eggs and young. The fry (young fish) stay together in tight schools until they are about an inch long. They feed on microscopic animals and small crustaceans. Fingerling bass feed on insects, crayfish and small fishes. Adults eat whatever is available, including fish, crayfish, crabs, frogs, salamanders, snakes, mice, turtles and even birds.
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. Before extensive phosphate mining began in the 1960s, the eastern portion of Tenoroc was part of a large wetland system at the headwaters of Saddle Creek, the upper-most tributary of the Peace River. The western portion of Tenoroc was part of a wetland system associated with Lake Parker.
When the state purchased the site, virtually all but 17 percent of the native habitats that originally existed at Tenoroc were severely impacted and extensively altered by the phosphate mining operations that occurred in this portion of Polk County beginning in the 1940s. Mining disrupted natural drainage patterns by eliminating original wetlands and impounding water in retention areas such as pit lakes and clay settling ponds. Sand tailings were left behind as spoil mounds, creating berms and ridges.
Agricultural and silvicultural activities also had severe impacts on the area’s habitats and landforms, including the conversion of longleaf pine flatwoods into improved pastures and citrus groves. Large acreages were clear-cut for timber or stumped for naval stores in the past and are now dominated by undesirable nuisance and nonnative vegetation. There were also areas that were not mined but which were impacted by mining operations. These impacts resulted in habitat conversion to hardwood forests and dense stands of palmetto.
Live oak, cabbage palm, red maple, sweet gum and wax myrtle became established on spoil mounds in the mined areas, . Several undisturbed areas of pine flatwoods, swamps and xeric oak are located in the Saddle Creek Tract and in scattered spots elsewhere. Seventeen imperiled animal species and two imperiled plant species (Garberia and scrub pinweed) are known to occur on the area.
Tenoroc is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The site demonstrates the results of intensive management and restoration and nature’s regenerative powers. Tenoroc’s well-managed habitats contribute clean water to the Peace River, create an important refuge for wildlife and serve as a quality destination for recreation. Pit lakes have been transformed into quality fishing lakes and steep-sided spoil mounds have created wooded hills for hiking and horseback riding.
Significant reforestation activities have been conducted throughout the area. Hundreds of acres were planted to create upland and wetland forest on the eastern, central and western portions of Tenoroc as part of the Upper Peace River/Saddle Creek Restoration Project. In addition, several hundred acres of pine flatwoods and other upland forest communities have been planted using easement fees and other funding sources. More upland restoration projects are scheduled over the next few years. Existing stands of fire-adapted native vegetation are managed through prescribed burning conducted by staff from FWC, FDEP and/or the Florida Forest Service. Prescribed fire is also used to maintain open areas utilized by ground nesting birds, control the spread of invasive non-native plants, create small, diverse patches of habitat that better serve wildlife, and to prepare areas for native plantings.
Initial hydrological restoration work involved the construction of numerous water control and drainage structures throughout the property to improve flows between the lakes and wetlands and to increase water storage capacity on the property. Restoration will continue in the future to improve the long-term health of the watershed.
The fishing resources available to the public are abundant and diverse, with a total of 29 managed lakes on the property. The reclaimed and unreclaimed lakes range in size from five to 242 acres. Fisheries management involves the use of restrictive harvest regulations on game fish species and control of angler fishing effort. Regulations include minimum lengths, protected length ranges, reduced bag limits, gear restrictions, trophy bass restrictions, and catch-and-release provisions. These prevent over-harvesting of game fish and maintain quality fishing opportunities.
Nonnative and invasive plant species known to occur on Tenoroc include Brazilian pepper, camphor tree, cogongrass, rattlebox, tongue-tree, water hyacinth, hydrilla and water lettuce. Managers remove these species and replant with native vegetation where appropriate.
In addition to the management work described here, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rely on a wide range of techniques to ensure that natural areas throughout the state stay healthy for wildlife and inviting to visitors.
In 1881, the discovery of phosphate rock in the Peace River near Ft. Meade initiated the mining of the Bone Valley Deposit, a vast supply of phosphate, the key ingredient in agricultural fertilizers. Phosphate mining significantly disrupted the area’s natural drainage patterns by eliminating original wetlands and impounding water in retention areas. Before extensive phosphate mining began in the 1960s, the eastern portion of this area was part of a large wetland system at the headwaters of Saddle Creek, the uppermost tributary of the Peace River. The western portion of Tenoroc was part of a wetland system associated with Lake Parker.
The area that became Tenoroc was extensively surface-mined between 1950 and 1978 by the Coronet Phosphate Company, the Smith-Douglass Company, and Borden, Inc. The name "Tenoroc" is "Coronet" spelled backwards. In September 1982, Borden, Inc. donated 6,058 acres to the State of Florida. Two additional tracts were acquired through purchase: 341 acres with funds from the Non-Mandatory Reclamation Trust Fund and Preservation 2000 in 1998, and 986 acres through the Preservation 2000 Inholdings and Additions program in 2000. In 2012, the Williams Acquisition Holding Company, Inc. donated 770 acres to the State of Florida as an addition to Tenoroc.
Tenoroc currently exists as a mostly mined-over site, where lakes ranging in size from five to 242 acres provide quality public fishing. Two types – reclaimed and unreclaimed – offer different fishing challenges. Both types offer open-water fishing opportunities, but their water depths and shoreline configurations differ greatly. Boat ramps are provided on most lakes. Some lakes also have restrooms and picnic pavilions. Other recreational opportunities include trails for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding and an archery range and gun ranges for rifle, pistol, air gun and sporting clays.
Tenoroc offers excellent birding opportunities. Numerous lakes attract wading birds, waterfowl and raptors. Songbirds pause here during spring and fall migrations. Nesting osprey are common in the spring and one of the state's largest wading bird colonies of snowy egret, white ibis and anhinga may be seen from the south end of the Blue Loop Trail. Two man-made wetlands also provide wildlife viewing opportunities.
Tenoroc is nationally noted for largemouth bass and provides excellent fishing for bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie and several varieties of catfish. With 29 lakes ranging in size from five to 242 acres, Tenoroc provides quality public fishing. Special opportunities are available for children and physically-challenged anglers. Bank fishing access as well as fishing piers, platforms and boardwalks are provided on many lakes.
All visitors, including anglers, must check in and out at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area headquarters. Anglers must deposit their valid fishing license with the custodian unless otherwise instructed. Quotas have been established for each lake, and fishing is permitted in designated lakes only. Unless otherwise specified, largemouth bass must be released immediately. For fishing reports and tips for Tenoroc, call 863-606-0093 Friday through Monday, between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The Tenoroc Public Small Game Hunting Area offers dove hunting and hog management hunts. Check the regulations brochure before you visit.
The Tenoroc Dove Field is located two miles west of Lakeland in Polk County. From intersection of SR 33 and SR 659 (Combee Road), travel south approximately 1.3 miles and turn left onto Tenoroc Mine Road. The check station will be approximately 1.7 miles on the left. The dove field is south of the check station approximately 1.5 miles (look for the signs) from the check station to the dove field.
For information about special opportunity alligator hunts, visit the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program web page.
If you see a sick or abnormally thin deer or deer dead of unknown causes, please report its location to the CWD hotline, (866) CWD-WATCH (293-9282).
The shooting sports center at Tenoroc includes 100- and 50-yard rifle ranges, 25- and 7-yard pistol ranges, 5-stand sporting clays, trap, and a 15-station sporting clays course. The archery range has ground level, elevated and 3-D courses. The range has a pro shop plus an education facility, where hunter safety courses are held and other outdoor education opportunities are offered through the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network.
Visitors may use canoes or kayaks on any lake where boats are allowed, but quotas on the number of boats per lake are enforced and paddlers will be competing with anglers for a slot. Two paddling trails exist for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts.
Hiking and Bicycling
Hikers and bicyclists enjoy miles of trails within the PUA. Hikers can access nearly 39 miles of multi-use scenic trails. A trail beginning at Picnic Lake travels past ponds and restored habitat, offering opportunities to see numerous birds, reptiles and mammals. The topographic relief offered by the reclaimed mine presents more difficult opportunities for those hikers and bicyclists looking for a challenge.
Equestrians can enjoy 24 miles of trails within the PUA. Portions of these trails are scenic multi-use trails, which are also enjoyed by hikers or bicyclists. The equestrian trails begin at the Tenoroc PUA field office and travel past ponds and restored habitat. The trails offer numerous opportunities for birding and other wildlife watching. All trails are designed as looped trails, returning riders back to the trail's start.
Two sizable picnic pavilions with nearby restrooms are available for large gatherings; these facilities are in close proximity to ADA-accessible Derby Lake and Picnic Lake. Both lakes offer opportunities for fishing and wildlife viewing. Picnic Lake is also open to boating.
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